The Grizzled Wizard in Wallingford bills itself as the "most extreme dive in the Multiverse." The place is simple and small, and the drinks are cheap, and the (electronic) darts are free. But the Griz Wiz, only a couple months new, has some work to do before it descends to dive status. The paint's fresh and grit is lacking. When you walk into Al's a few doors down, the head of every person on a bar stool swivels and all the attached eyes bore into you, as all the eyes in a great dive should (and Al's is incontrovertibly a great dive: the greatest in Wallingford, if not the Multiverse). At the Grizzled Wizard, people just glance.
What the Grizzled Wizard seems to be is a good neighborhood hangout, no extremity involved. The name might lead you to expect metalheads, but the woman sitting at the end of the bar is reading a medical anthropology text. Turns out she has a paper due in the morning that she hasn't started yet; she finds the work goes better at the last minute with a cold beer. She maintains a 3.9. She's nice. So is the bartender. So is the lighting: Numerous paper lanterns hang from the ceilings, all with red lightbulbs installed, giving everyone an attractive glow. The soundtrack might be the Allman Brothers, and one random flip of the jukebox nets Metallica and King Crimson, but also Elvis and a disc called PURE 80'S. Currently, only frozen entrées are served at the Grizzled Wizard, so people bring in food from Dick's. The smell of fries wafts enticingly around the room.
Even the wizard isn't all that grizzled: In a frankly awesome mural, his salient features are radiant, otherworldly eyes and electricity-shooting fingertips. He looks good for a wizard (especially with the flattering lighting). Another painting depicts blood dripping down toward the head of Slater from Saved by the Bell, with his name across the bottom in the font of the band Slayer. There's also a Magic-Markered "Pin the Stripes on the Tiger" poster: Black fabric stripes are thumbtacked to the beast, who's performing a sex act on another large cat with "DIO" tattooed across its chest. A jar of Mrs. Dirty's Fabulous Chunky Peanut Butter is also featured. The game is left over from a night devoted to the entire catalog of Ronnie James Dio. Do not let it be said that the Grizzled Wizard lacks a sense of humor.
In the back room, you'll find the world's ugliest McMansion-foyer-style chandelier, the world's largest collection of obscure late-'70s movie posters, a pinball game, and the amazement arising from a piece of art involving nudity and psychedelic body paint. Grizzled Wizard, it's your weirdness that the Multiverse was lacking. Rock on however you damn well please.
The Grizzled Wizard, 2317 N 45th St, 395-GRIZ
This article has been updated since its original publication: The painting with the dripping blood is of Slater from Saved by the Bell, not Christian Slater as originally stated.